The H3600 has one big button on the front that rocks in four directions and presses down as well. Surprisingly enough, it also doubles as the speaker for the unit. There is an ambient light sensor that can auto-adjust the brightness and contrast of the device to save on power in brightly lit areas. There are four other buttons on the sides of the device.
Inside is a 32-bit, 206 MHz Intel StrongARM processor with 32 MB of RAM and 16 MB of ROM (FlashRAM really). Although the Linux version hasn't been tested for battery life, the Windows CE version is rated to run 12 hours on its rechargeable lithium-polymer battery.
What's really cool is that the device runs a low-footprint version of X. The frame buffer for the device was created by Jim Gettys, one of the original creators of X Window System, with the help of Keith Packard, another member of the original X Window team. The H3600's X version fits in about 600 KB and consumes little memory because of the relatively small size of the screen. The same frame buffer is already in the standard X Window distribution, so there are no new surprises for developers here.
Gettys suggested a possible development environment for the device in the future. Instead of a system emulator or a cross-compiler that you run on a developer workstation, you may be able to directly develop and test software on the device itself. That can be done using a PC Card network connection (either Ethernet or Wireless). You can telnet into the H3600, run Emacs or X-clients directly off the handheld, display it on your workstation, and compile with gcc or other tools. It is a Linux platform, after all. That process not only saves time on development but can also save on cost since the developer does not have to purchase a separate kit or emulator for the system. Gettys also said that his team is currently working on a NetBSD port for the device, which should increase the popularity of the Open Handheld even more.
Compaq has not made this an official product. Instead, it wants to test the market demand for a Linux version of the H3600. To have an H3600 with Linux, you have to buy the standard Windows CE version and then download and install the Linux boot-loader, kernel and operating system. The installation process is a little tricky right now, but Compaq is working on smoothing it out. Compaq is even working to save the existing Windows CE image in the FlashRAM so those who care to can save the Windows CE image elsewhere and later reinstall it or sell it off to someone else.
The Linux device might soon have a better standing than Microsoft's Windows CE devices, which have not been able to break Palm's greater than 70 percent market share.